Saturday, October 30, 2010

Game 8: UMD at Bemidji State

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- UMD pulled the ol' rabbit out of the hat in overtime Friday, finding a way to get the overtime goal home in a 3-2 win over Bemidji State. The win pushed their winning streak to six, longest in the country, and left the as the WCHA's last remaining unbeaten team.

Saturdays have been very good to UMD so far, with a 3-0 record and a 16-3 goal differential. This will be a different animal. Bemidji is going to be desperate, as they're off to an 0-3 start in their brand new building, and they need to find a way to get that first WCHA win.



Connolly (Mike) - Connolly (Jack) - Fontaine
Schmidt - Oleksuk - Brown
DeLisle - Flaherty - Seidel
Basaraba - Tardy - Grun

Olson - Montgomery
Bergman - Lamb
Olsen - Faulk

Reiter - Crandall

George - Read - Lowe
MacQueen - Walters - Cramer
Illo - Fisher - Billberg
Ladd - McLeod - Findlay

Areshenko - Hunt
Rendle - Adams
MacIntyre - Wacker

Dugas - Bakala - Bosch

Friday, October 29, 2010

Game 7: UMD at Bemidji State

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- This is kind of exciting. It's an opportunity to see a very nice and almost totally new building in a city that so badly needed one.

Bemidji has great hockey tradition, so it was very nice to hear that they finally got clearance to build a new arena in town, and they were able to use that new arena to help them gain entry into the WCHA, thus ensuring the program's status in Division I for many years to come.

After that run-on sentence, it seems like a good time to stop talking. This building will seem a lot nicer if the Bulldogs can find a way to erase their recent history with Bemidji State.



Connolly (Mike) - Connolly (Jack) - Fontaine
Schmidt - Oleksuk - Brown
Basaraba - Hendrickson - Grun
DeLisle - Flaherty - Seidel

Montgomery - Palm
Bergman - Lamb
Olsen - Faulk

Crandall - Reiter

George - Read - Lowe
Illo - Walters - Cramer
MacQueen - Fisher - Billberg
Ladd - McLeod - Findlay

Areshenko - Hunt
Rendle - Adams
Carlson - Wacker

Bakala - Bosch - Dugas

Bulldogs Try to End Another Skid

Last weekend, J.T. Brown's overtime goal ended a streak of four straight meetings at the DECC in which UMD failed to beat Alaska-Anchorage. It was a bit of a puzzling streak, because it isn't like UAA has ever been a WCHA juggernaut.

Friday was hardly easy. UAA played very well. In fact, coach Dave Shyiak told the Anchorage Daily News it was their best effort so far this season.

"It was a good, good team effort on Friday, and everyone contributed," he said.

Saturday saw UAA lose a couple defensemen, and they just wore down as UMD did a much better job protecting the puck and generating chances. The Bulldogs won the game 6-0, and while it didn't feel like a 6-0 game, UMD was surely happy to pick up a blowout win over a team probably best described as a nemesis.

Now, it's Bemidji's turn.

The Bulldogs haven't won a game in Bemidji since late in the 2004-2005 season, despite playing once there most years.

(Before Bemidji joined the WCHA, UMD would play home-and-home series against the Beavers for two years, then the Beavers would play twice in Duluth the third year. This was the pattern most of the last 12 years.)

There have been painful losses, anemic offensive performances, and even bad nights for stout goalies. And when Alex Stalock gets yanked from a game, you know it isn't a good game for UMD.

Perhaps playing twice there will be enough for UMD to reverse the fortunes. The Bulldogs will play there Friday and Saturday nights, meaning we get to see two games in the brand new Sanford Center, a 4,000-plus seat facility built on the south shore of Lake Bemidji. It's an impressive facility, one bound to be more comfortable than the old John Glas Fieldhouse, which had a lot of character and a great atmosphere, but wasn't well-suited for Division III hockey, to be blunt.

Don't read too much into Bemidji's record. The Beavers might be 0-2, but they played mighty North Dakota in those games, and it was a weekend series wrought with distractions, as it served as opening weekend for the Bemidji Regional Events Center. Of course, these will be the Beavers' first games at Sanford Center, so maybe they'll still have issues focusing ...

Anyway, they boast one of college hockey's best players in senior forward Matt Read. Beaver coach Tom Serratore says they're not that deep, but Read, defenseman Brad Hunt, and goalie Dan Bakala make a formidable top group of players. Guys like forwards Jordan George, Ian Lowe, and Jamie MacQueen can hurt you, too, and in UMD's case, they all pretty much have at some point.

This is a relentless team, one that never stops coming at you. If they get caught up in their own zone, they've always seemed willing to just take an icing to slow the game down. No, you can't change lines after an icing anymore, but it still brings you a stoppage in play. More importantly, it gives a team the chance to win a faceoff.

UMD hasn't been particularly good on faceoffs yet, and it is something that could burn them this weekend if they're constantly giving up puck possession.

The Bulldogs are 5-0-1, but no one thinks they've played their best hockey yet. They're progressing in that direction, and now they have to prove they can beat a pesky team on the road. No more excuses about bus legs, because the team is already in Bemidji.

They're good. We know that. But now UMD has to go beat them anyway.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Brett Favre's Turn to Deny Obvious

For nearly a season and a half, Packer fans watched helplessly as Brett Favre helped the Vikings win games and put themselves in a position to win a championship.

There were, sure, a few gut punches along the way, including in the NFC Championship. However, Favre played great in 2009 and left little doubt -- despite his self-produced offseason drama -- that he would return in 2010.

Of course, that doesn't mean that his return was a good idea.

In fact, it seems like this has been the biggest mistake Favre's made since he hit "send" on his cell phone in 2008.

(Pause for laughter. Or groans. Or for you to click off this site.)

Favre has 14 turnovers, contributing (often directly) to 51 points for the opposition and a lot of pressure on his team's very-good defense. Favre's passer rating is 30th out of 33 quarterbacks currently with enough throws to qualify for the passing title.

That's 30th-best, by the way.

For head coach Brad Childress, who has prided himself on getting great solid very good decent mediocre play out of his quarterbacks during his time at Minnesota, this has to be eating him alive. He can't even get Favre to be an offensive caretaker, because the running game -- while led by a total stud in Adrian Peterson -- isn't good enough to be a one-dimensional offense.

With Favre possibly sidelined (chuckle) by a foot/ankle injury, there is so much speculation about his status for Sunday that you could probably get your fill of it while watching MSNBC. But while idiots like me continue to laugh at the notion that Favre won't play, there are some who think it's at least a possibility. NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert tweeted the following:

Will keep saying it. Childress, not foot, is Favre's biggest obstacle.

Seifert knows more than I do. In the end, I'm willing to take the word of those who cover the team on a regular basis over my hunches.

But this is freaking Brett Favre. He can't just sit, right?


There's acrimony between Favre and Childress. There are real issues in that relationship. As the kids say, it's complicated. Don't discount Childress' desire to put his stamp on this team and exhibit control over the players. He might not get along great with Favre, but he wants to win, and if he feels that a gimpy Favre doesn't give his team the best chance to win, he will bench the streak.

While it shouldn't be up to Favre, most people think it is. The right thing for him to do is sit.

And he can't wait to sit until the Vikings fall out of serious playoff contention. He is no longer his team's best chance to win, and it's too bad he fails to recognize it. I think Childress knows it, but he doesn't have the guts/political power necessary to make this decision.

Simply put: Unless Favre's left foot falls off before Sunday, or Favre himself decides that he can't go, Favre will start.

And while only time will tell if it's the right move, there doesn't appear to be much chance that it will end well for Favre.

Or Childress.

UMD Hockey Notes

A couple items to clean up before we head to Bemidji:
  • Not sure I've seen senior defenseman Trent Palm play as well as he did on Saturday in a long time. With all the problems he's had, it's almost good enough to see him on the ice, but it's practically emotional to see him play like that. He's a smart, heady player who will be an asset to this team if he can continue to improve.
  • Nice to see freshman forward Joe Basaraba on the ice again this week. He had been out with a lower-body injury, which made it tough for him, I would guess, to keep up from a conditioning standpoint. Look for him to play at least once this weekend, from what it sounds like. That'll be good. I thought he played very well in the games in Upper Michigan, giving the team a bit of a physical edge. Not only that, but he got some penalty kill time, and he was solid in that role, too. He is the kind of hard-nosed depth player UMD really needs.
  • With all the attention J.T. Brown has been getting, let's take some time to salute Travis Oleksuk. He was named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week after a four-point effort in the series against Alaska-Anchorage. He's progressed amazingly well from his freshman year to this point, and he's the kind of player who will probably continue to be overlooked in a way. He isn't going to center the team's top line as long as Jack Connolly is around, but his role is key, because that second line's ability to produce as of late is going to take a lot of pressure off Jack and his linemates. Not only that, but Oleksuk has come around a lot as a two-way player.
  • With Basaraba back and Palm apparently ready to go at least on Friday night in Bemidji, senior Cody Danberg is the only injured player on UMD's roster. This is hardly a Green Bay-type situation, so UMD should consider themselves fortunate.
If you're not going to the games this weekend, please consider listening to us on the Bulldog Sports Radio Network. You can find a coverage map for our stations here.

Also, if you haven't looked yet, the site to check out the online auction benefiting UMD men's hockey equipment manager Chris Garner can be found here. Keep your grubby little paws off that Bill Sweatt jersey, people. That's gonna be mine. :)

(He was one of my favorite non-local Colorado College players. Verrry tempting to make a bid or two and try to get that.)

Finally, I understand that Bemidji State is playing a home football game Saturday, but how cruel of whoever scheduled the Hermantown-Bemidji Section 7AAAA playoff game for 6pm Saturday. Imagine the turnout of UMD fans we could get at that game to cheer the Hawks on to an upset win.

Alas, we're stuck having to choose, and many of us don't really have a choice. Gonna have to root for Hermantown from afar.

Monday, October 25, 2010

BlogPoll 2010: Week 9 Ballot

Here is my ballot for this Wednesday:

SB Nation BlogPoll Top 25 College Football Rankings

The Ciskie Blog Ballot - Week 9

Rank Team Delta
1 Boise St. Broncos --
2 Oregon Ducks --
3 Auburn Tigers Arrow_up 5
4 TCU Horned Frogs --
5 Utah Utes --
6 Missouri Tigers Arrow_up 4
7 Michigan St. Spartans Arrow_down -1
8 Alabama Crimson Tide Arrow_up 1
9 Oklahoma Sooners Arrow_down -6
10 Wisconsin Badgers Arrow_up 1
11 LSU Tigers Arrow_down -4
12 Ohio St. Buckeyes --
13 Arizona Wildcats Arrow_up 1
14 Stanford Cardinal Arrow_up 1
15 Nebraska Cornhuskers Arrow_up 2
16 Florida St. Seminoles Arrow_up 2
17 South Carolina Gamecocks Arrow_up 2
18 Arkansas Razorbacks Arrow_up 3
19 Oklahoma St. Cowboys Arrow_down -6
20 Virginia Tech Hokies Arrow_up 3
21 Iowa Hawkeyes Arrow_down -5
22 Baylor Bears --
23 Miami Hurricanes --
24 Navy Midshipmen --
25 Nevada Wolf Pack --
Dropouts: West Virginia Mountaineers, Kansas St. Wildcats, Texas Longhorns, Mississippi St. Bulldogs

SB Nation BlogPoll College Football Top 25 Rankings »

  • The drops are obvious.
  • Baylor? Yes, Baylor. Looking good and bowl eligible. It's a great story.
  • Navy thumped Notre Dame, which doesn't seem that special, but it's been 40 years since they beat the Irish that badly. They're another one of those perennial bowl teams that schedules smart and knows what they're doing.
  • How the hell did Wisconsin get in the top ten? Wow.
  • I love this Auburn team, but I still don't buy them as a serious national contender. That defense has had moments, but is generally scary and inconsistent enough to make this team vulnerable. I would pick Boise and Oregon to beat them on a neutral field, hence my vote.
  • Missouri is a hard team to figure out, but it looks like they're in this for the long haul. Now watch them lose to Nebraska.

Brett Favre Meets the End of the Road

I've hesitated all season. I keep waiting for the ol' gunslinger to come back. I keep waiting for him to have that moment where it all starts to come together.

Where he and his team look to be in synch again.

Instead, we see more and more instances like Sunday night, where it was abundantly clear that the Minnesota Vikings were far from "in synch," and the quarterback was largely responsible for his team finishing the game with fewer points than the opponent.

It keeps coming back to Brett Favre.

After a largely magical season in 2009, Favre has been absolutely pathetic in six games for the Vikings this season. Any hopes a bye week would cure his ails vanished in Week 5, when the Vikings lost on a Monday night to the Jets, and Favre looked tired and old after taking a week off.

He looked less tired, but still very old, in the win over Dallas last Sunday. It was a positive sign, and his improving elbow gave fans the indication that he would start to turn things around.

No dice.

Under bright lights that Favre used to thrive in, he did the exact opposite. In a stadium where he used to help the Packers win, he helped the Packers win.

Now, we're at a crossroads.

There is no bye week to rest Brett. There is no layup game coming up next week. Instead, the Vikings have to deal with the 5-1 Patriots. Yeah, we'll probably hear a few words about how Randy Moss wants to stick it to his old team. Surely, those who can't let go will talk about how this is where Brett shows how great he is.

Unfortunately for Vikings fans, it's reached the end of the road.

This is where Brett Favre has to exit. FanHouse comrade Kevin Blackistone opines.

Favre could use the time off right now. He could use it to physically heal and mentally prepare his exit strategy.

Favre looked and sounded by late Sunday night as if he's done. It wasn't just his saltier and more peppery hair. It was his limping on a surgically repaired left ankle -- and what he said it prevented him from doing.

"Who knows?" Favre said when asked if he'd be able to play next weekend. "Who knows, really? I hope I do."

It was his admission that his ungrateful coach, the one who earned a contract extension because of Favre's remarkable play a season ago, was probably right about his too-risky play at Lambeau.

The reality is that Favre has no way out, unless the league suspends him for his sexting -- and that shouldn't happen barring further evidence of wrongdoing than what we've been presented with by the Deadspins of the world.

That is, of course, if Favre's troublesome left ankle doesn't stop being troublesome.

Is it reasonable to suggest that Favre could miss the Patriots game Sunday? Yes. Of course, it's not reasonable to suggest it if there is any serious thought to him returning.

Favre is making $20 million. He's not going on the bench for a game or two. If Childress goes to Tarvaris Jackson, he's not going back to Favre barring a cataclysmic barrage of injuries. It's past the point of no return.

Sunday was not a virtuoso performance for Green Bay. It was meaningful, though, because the Packers needed to beat Brett Favre.

Of course, they needed help from Brett Favre to make that happen. In the end, it was too much for Childress to stomach.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Game 6: Alaska-Anchorage at UMD

J.T. Brown is a hero 'round these parts. His overtime goal last night gave UMD a 3-2 win in a game they were just good enough to win.

Tonight, UMD aims to not be "just good enough," and instead be as good as they're capable of being. A fifth straight win is on the line as the Bulldogs battle a game Alaska-Anchorage team.



Connolly (Mike) - Connolly (Jack) - Fontaine
Schmidt - Oleksuk - Brown
DeLisle - Flaherty - Seidel
Olson - Hendrickson - Grun

Montgomery - Palm
Bergman - Lamb
Olsen - Faulk

Crandall - Reiter - Gaffy

Grant - Kwas - Wiles
Bruijsten - Bailey - Cameron
Haddad - Gellert - Pustin
Portwood - Parkinson - Crowell

Leinweber - Vidmar
Warner - Gorham
McLeod - Sproule

Kamal - Gunderson

Friday, October 22, 2010

Game 5: Alaska-Anchorage at UMD

The homestand continues this weekend, as Alaska-Anchorage visits the DECC. We're down to just three home series left in this place.

Weird? I think it is.

Anyway, UMD hasn't beaten the Seawolves here since 2007. You knew that. And it's going to change this weekend.



Connolly (Mike) - Connolly (Jack) - Fontaine
Schmidt - Oleksuk - Brown
DeLisle - Hendrickson - Grun
Seidel - Tardy - Flaherty

Kishel - Montgomery
Bergman - Lamb
Olsen - Faulk

Reiter - Crandall - Gaffy

Grant - Naslund - Wiles
Bruijsten - Bailey - Cameron
Haddad - Kwas - Pustin
Portwood - Parkinson - Crowell

Warner - Gorham
Leinweber - Vidmar
McLeod - Sproule

Gunderson - Kamal

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Alaska Conundrum

February 24, 2007.

My son had just turned five. I'm pretty sure Brett Favre was still a Packer, and no one thought anything weird would ever happen.

Hell, Alex Stalock was riding the pine at this point in his freshman season.

My, how times have changed.

That was the last time the UMD Bulldogs beat Alaska-Anchorage at the DECC. Granted, the Seawolves haven't been here every year since, but it's still not a good streak for UMD fans. UAA is 3-0-1 at the DECC during that span.

It's not just about UMD "playing down to its competition," as many fans will suggest. While the Bulldogs have their occasional struggles with the likes of Michigan Tech, they swept the season series from Minnesota State last year, and they usually do pretty well against the Techies (only four of eight points last year, but six of eight the year before, and five of eight in each of the previous two years -- and most of those UMD teams struggled overall, too).

The point? There's something about the Seawolves.

You can blame pests like Kevin Clark, or talented players of the past like Paul Crowder, but the reality is that UAA is not a good matchup for UMD, especially at the smaller DECC.

The Seawolves present problems for the Bulldogs because of their size and their style of play. UAA likes to bang bodies, and while UMD isn't opposed to some hitting here and there, they aren't as physical of a team. They also aren't as big.

Dave Shyiak likes him the bigger and older players. These are guys who have cut their teeth with (usually) multiple years of junior hockey. They get in your face. They get in your goaltender's face. They love to play that hard-nosed style and make life tough on skilled players.

For UMD, there are some keys to success this weekend. It starts with their defense. They don't have the biggest group on the blue line, and they can't let UAA players get position in front of the UMD goal. Some of those guys can block out the sun if you let them.

The Bulldogs may not be able to use stretch passes as often as they'd like. Instead, they're going to have to rely on smart, accurate, shorter passes, as they use their speed to get the puck up the rink. From there, get it deep in the UAA zone, and win battles to get scoring chances.

The Seawolves have a ton of inexperience on the roster. For a lot of these guys, this is foreign territory ... a long, long flight, three-hour time change, and an unfamiliar environment with the small rink. Shyiak smartly got his team here Wednesday, giving them a chance to skate Wednesday night at the DECC, then again Thursday, followed by the traditional morning skates Friday and Saturday. The extra time in Duluth will get them acclimated to the major time change, along with the difference in rink dimensions.

This won't be easy at all for UMD. As in the past with UAA, they'll have to work for everything they get. The games will be low-scoring, and if UAA's freshman goalie(s) outplay UMD's goalie(s), it could be a long weekend at the DECC.

I certainly hope not, but I also tend to think the recent struggles against UAA are more than just the Bulldogs not taking care of business. This is a matchup issue to an extent.

We heard Providence was a Michigan Tech-type of team. That didn't really work out, as the Friars were overmatched and really looked it, especially on Saturday. It's unlikely that UMD will get a similar break from Alaska-Anchorage. Instead, these four points will have to be earned.

Chris Garner Auction Coming

We've told you in the past about the story of UMD men's hockey equipment manager Chris Garner. While his recovery from an August bone marrow transplant is going well, Garnzy faces a mountain of medical expenses, and it's time for us to help.

His friend Jeremiah Minkel, the equipment manager at St. Cloud State, and his girlfriend Kari have helped organize a benefit auction. They have secured over 150 items, more than half of which are hockey jerseys. Many NCAA Division I schools are represented, with a lot of them having more than one jersey in the auction. There are various sizes available, so if you are a big guy or a "normal size" person, you'll have a good choice of jersey to bid on.

Some of the jerseys -- including an awesome Michigan No. 9 Red Berenson jersey -- are signed.

There's also a slew of autographed sticks from around the NHL and AHL.

I hope you get a chance to check out the items and perhaps make a bid. The money certainly goes to a worthy cause.

You can check out the stuff here. Bidding opens Sunday morning, and closes Monday evening, Nov. 8.

More information can be picked up on the benefit's Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rick Rypien About to Meet His NHL Maker

The NHL has only a perceived image problem. The league is mocked in many circles because it only penalizes players five minutes for fighting, and that's just a way to glorify the fisticuffs. People make fun of hockey because it doesn't have great television ratings, even when the sport finds a way to beat out important events happening in baseball.

Part of the issue is that ESPN only talks about hockey when something bad happens.

So thanks, Rick Rypien, for giving ESPN something to talk about.

Rypien reached into the stands to grab a fan at Tuesday's game in St. Paul, where the Canucks were manhandled by the Wild, 6-2.

Perhaps Rypien was upset over losing a first-period fight to Wild enforcer Brad Staubitz.

Maybe he was ticked because the officials stepped in to prevent him from fighting Staubitz near the Wild bench.

It could have been that Rypien just didn't like that he could only get one cheap punch in on Staubitz before the two were fully separated.

No matter what, Rypien is about to face the music from the NHL. Here's the video.

Senseless, stupid, selfish, and completely out of control, Rypien didn't play again in the game -- a smart and classy move by the otherwise clueless Alain Vigneault, who acted after the game like he didn't know what happened, and who continues to start Roberto Luongo in games at the XCel Energy Center, despite an obvious hex on the otherwise All-World goalie.

Listen: There are things that could be said in defense of Rypien. Perhaps the X isn't constructed perfectly, getting the fans too close to the action. Perhaps that particular fan said something about Rypien's family that isn't fit for broadcast or publication.

But there is no excusing what the player did in this instance. There are zero circumstances where it is okay for a player to get physical with a fan like that. None. Not one.

When Packer safety Nick Collins threw his mouthguard into the stands and got into a shouting match with a fan who allegedly shouted racial slurs and spit at him, Collins could have (perhaps should have) at least been fined by the league.

In this case, there is nothing that indicates Rypien was provoked by spit. Or grabbing. Or anything but noise.

That can't be excused, and the NHL will not allow Rypien to skate (pun intented) from this incident. He's going to face a heavy punishment, and he should.

It's not about sending a message to players. There hasn't been a documented player-fan incident that got physical since 2000. No one is worried about this becoming a trend. Instead, a suspension is all about public relations.

This is going to send a message to the world that the NHL won't allow its fans to be accosted by players. They're not going to stand idly as players get too aggressive in their off-ice behavior.

Of course, no one who follows the game needs to be told this, but that doesn't mean the league won't try to make its point loud and clear.

I expect a 15-20 game ban, even though I'm not convinced it really needs to be more than ten.

If Rypien doesn't like it, perhaps he'll think twice before reaching out to grab a fan. Of course, he'll do that, anyway. Oh, well.

Before I wrap this up, here is the Canucks TV video of the incident.

Hilarious. There's being a homer, and there's being a blind homer. Remember, those two things are on completely different levels.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Central Scouting Hates Northeast Minnesota

The NHL Central Scouting Bureau is not the gospel when it comes to the NHL Draft.

That said, the analysis this group does is a good jumping-off point when discussing the draft's top prospects.

In January, CSB will release its mid-term player rankings, which will be heavy on detail and a good updated look at where the top players are at.

Tuesday, their first list of the year was released publicly. This one is simply a quick look at players to watch from North America.

In a rather surprising development, the breakdown of Minnesota high school players lists no one from our area.

Obviously, I'm exaggerating in the headline, as Central Scouting routinely lists players from the Northland. However, the fact that no one is listed indicates the potential for a rather rough year of high school hockey around these parts.

If things change in January, we'll certainly make note of that.

Only one UMD recruit is listed on the watch list. That is forward Tony Cameranesi, a small but highly-skilled player from Wayzata High School. He is in the group of "B" prospects, which means he is a player worth a look, but not thought at this point to be a first- or second-round draft pick.

Only teammate Mario Lucia is in the "A" grouping. Yes, he's Don's son. Oddly, he's not committed to a college yet. Hmm ...

Anyway, it's always fun to look at these lists. They don't mean much, but it's a chance to start getting excited for the upcoming high school season.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tim Brewster's Firing Should Lead to Significant Changes at Minnesota

Tim Brewster couldn't change the culture.

Promises of Rose Bowls, conference championships, and elite players were all left unfulfilled, as Brewster was fired Sunday with a coaching record of 15-30, only 6-21 in Big Ten play.

I know he was just a hair from going 45-0 and 27-0, but that just didn't happen. Instead, the Gophers have to start over, not even four years after they fired Glen Mason in favor of starting over with Brewster.

Having reached out to alum Tony Dungy and been rebuffed by him (though he says he'll help with the search), athletic director Joel Maturi is in full search mode, as offensive coordinator Jeff Horton finishes what is a lost season that will end up with Minnesota no better than 3-9 and probably much worse than that.

The reaction of fans varies. Some want the Gophers to shoot for a big name -- ala basketball coach Tubby Smith -- and others want Minnesota to hire a guy who will want to be with the program for the long run.

Either way, it's a crapshoot.

There is no safe bet when hiring a coach. Hot young coaches like Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins both struggled after leaving Boise State for BCS conference teams. Former assistant Randy Shannon is doing well at Miami, but longtime coach Ralph Friedgen has largely struggled at Maryland.

What Minnesota can do, however, is make sure they get a coach with a successful resume and much less "promise" and "bluster" than Brewster provided.

Here are some keys:

1. Get someone with experience as a head coach at something other than a high school. That might work at Houston, but high school coaching experience won't help as much at Minnesota. The Gophers need a more seasoned coach, either from college or the NFL (more on that in a second).

This isn't unlike the NHL, where guys like John MacLean and Scott Arniel couldn't get head-coaching jobs until they cut their teeth in the AHL, and now Kirk Muller is on that list. They were accomplished coaches, but that head-coaching experience is vital before NHL teams will let you run a bench.

Hiring Brewster proved to be a mistake, and you have to look at his lack of experience as a part of the problem. He may have known how to recruit, but he had no idea how to implement a plan, develop an identity on either side of the ball, or handle a coaching staff.

Now, Maturi has to get a coach who has experience as a head coach. It is a must.

2. Hire a coach who has ties to the Big Ten. Look around the league right now. The most successful coaches -- Jim Tressel, Kirk Ferentz, Bret Bielema, Pat Fitzgerald, and Mark Dantonio -- spent time in the Big Ten as assistant coaches before becoming head coaches in the league. Of them, only Fitzgerald is an actual alum of the school (Northwestern) he is at now, but the point is that all these coaches have worked within the culture of the league.

The Big Ten isn't like witchcraft or anything, but you don't see a lot of successful Big Ten coaches getting jobs at Florida or anything like that (notable exception is Nick Saban, but he left Michigan State for LSU after the 1999 season). It's a different way of doing things, and you have to understand the types of student-athletes who can succeed at these schools.

Just hiring the offensive coordinator from Auburn (Gus Malzahn), for example, isn't going to guarantee you anything.

Same thing if you try to pluck a coach like Gary Patterson from his current job (TCU). Patterson is great at recruiting Texas high-school stars. That state is so rich in talent that it's ridiculous, and Patterson does well getting top players to go to a Mountain West school.

Of course, if he takes the Minnesota job, he can't be guaranteed any kind of similar success in recruiting. Why would the star running back from Southlake Carroll say "No" to Texas so he could go to Minnesota?

3. Don't be afraid to take a chance. This doesn't mean hire another Brewster. Instead, it means don't be afraid to spend more money to get the right guy. Sounds like the Gophers are willing to do this, and that's a good thing.

Good coaches aren't just looking to get paid. They're looking for a school that has exhibited a commitment to the sport, and the willingness to make the sport successful in the long-term at some short-term cost.

They will want a lot of money for themselves and their assistants. They will want to make sure facilities are kept up at top-notch condition, and they will stop at nothing to make sure the program is promoted properly.

This is a great city in a great state, with a super new stadium, playing in one of the biggest conferences in college sports.

There are no excuses for what Minnesota has become, and now it's up to Joel Maturi to make sure things turn around.

TOP FIVE CANDIDATES (alphabetical order)
Paul Chryst, Wisconsin offensive coordinator --> Experienced Big Ten assistant who got a sniff from the NFL a few years ago. Knows how to help a successful program recruit, and could give the Gophers a few much-needed steals from Wisconsin, after the Badgers took so many Minnesota kids over the years.

Jim Harbaugh, Stanford head coach --> Could be tough to lure him out of the California sun, but he'll never do better than this at Stanford. Minnesota offers him a higher ceiling, and it brings him closer to his alma mater (Michigan).

Mike Leach, former Texas Tech head coach --> Probably got a raw deal, and it's reasonable to suggest he will get another head coaching job soon. Could be a Glen Mason-type, where his ability won't take a team to a BCS bowl, but he'll always be capable of leading his players to 7-10 wins and a bowl game.

Bob Nielson, Minnesota Duluth head coach and athletic director --> Brilliant coach at the Division II level, with a national championship at UMD and a stellar overall record. No Big Ten experience, but his roots are in the upper Midwest -- with stops in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota as a coach and athletic director -- so he isn't far from being a perfect fit.

Marc Trestman, Montreal (CFL) head coach --> Much to worry about here, including a nomadic career as an NFL assistant. He's done very well in Montreal, though, and his offense is among the better in Canada. Hasn't been involved with the Big Ten since he went to Minnesota, so it remains to be seen if he could win in college as a head coach. Will get play here because he's a Twin Cities native.

BlogPoll 2010: Week 8 Ballot

Maybe that No. 1 spot is like a grenade. Granted, I didn't have Ohio State No. 1 last week, but they were the consensus.

Now look at them.

In the end, there were some big changes. I dropped some name schools out of the poll, and now you look and see Mississippi State on the ballot. Gotta love the work Dan Mullen has done there in a short time. I doubt this can sustain, because the Bulldogs are next to hopeless against a good pass defense.

Some other notes:
  • I'm stubborn. Boise is No. 1 until someone gives me a compelling reason to bump them out. Oregon wasn't going to do that this week, given that they were on a bye.
  • I misread the Ohio State-Wisconsin game, and while it's easy to rip the Buckeyes for a lackluster performance, the Badgers need to get some credit here. They put tOSU on their heels early, and it was 21-0 before they took their foot off the gas. Just when we were having the "Oh, crap, they're gonna blow it" thoughts, they stomped on the Buckeyes before they could fully get off the mat. Impressive.
  • Gave the unbeaten teams a bump. We'll see if it was justified. Probably not.
  • Good luck figuring out the SEC.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Game 4: Providence at UMD

Last night, we saw the first UMD penalty shot goal since 2003. We also had a great crowd in a ridiculously hot building. I thought we were going to see people going shirtless.

Game 2 of this non-conference series is coming up.



Connolly (Mike) - Connolly (Jack) - Fontaine
Schmidt - Oleksuk - Brown
DeLisle - Hendrickson - Grun
Seidel - Tardy - Flaherty

Kishel - Montgomery
Bergman - Lamb
Olsen - Faulk

Crandall - Reiter - Gaffy

O'Connor - MacKinnon - Farrer
Germain - Jamnick - Bergland
Landman - Schaller - Maloney
Kremyr - Army - Cross

New - Baier
Velischek - Hart
Harvey - Adams

Beaudry - Gates

Friday, October 15, 2010

Game 3: Providence at UMD

More non-conference hockey, this time from the friendly confines of the ol' barn.

As defenseman Wade Bergman noted on Facebook, this is the last first game at the DECC. Sad.



Connolly (Mike) - Connolly (Jack) - Fontaine
Schmidt - Oleksuk - Brown
DeLisle - Hendrickson - Grun
Seidel - Tardy - Flaherty

Olsen - Montgomery
Bergman - Lamb
Olson - Faulk

Reiter - Crandall - Gaffy

O'Connor - MacKinnon - Farrer
Germain - Jamnick - Bergland
Balysky - Schaller - Rooney
Kremyr - Army - Cross

New - Baier
Velischek - Hart
Harvey - Adams

Beaudry - Gates

The Importance of Non-Conference Wins

Last year, UMD missed the NCAA Tournament by one win.

It could have been in January, when the Bulldogs traveled to Vermont and fell to the hosts 5-2 in the Catamount Cup championship game. Vermont ended up barely making the NCAA Tournament.

It could have been in March, when UMD fell to Alaska-Anchorage 3-2 on a late goal by longtime UAA pest Kevin Clark.

You might argue it happened in late January, when Bemidji State swept UMD, including a game at the DECC where the Beavers scored at the horn in regulation to tie it, and then won it in overtime.

Perhaps that moment could have been in February, as UMD went to Houghton for Winter Carnival and lost the Friday game.

If any of those results are different, the Bulldogs go dancing.

Instead, they're left with a lesson learned.

Don't take non-conference games lightly.

Last weekend, UMD went 1-0-1 in Upper Michigan. That's no big deal. Yes, it sucks to tie a team you think isn't going to be very good. In the end, though, that game isn't going to cause any notable damage to UMD's NCAA hopes in March. Not only that, but the win over Northern Michigan could be huge, because the Wildcats play Denver, Bemidji State, and Michigan Tech later this season. Those are comparisons that could flip in UMD's favor -- in part -- because of Saturday's result.

It's a problem in NCAA hockey, but it is what it is. Non-conference games are severely overvalued, because the system rewards teams for performing well in comparisons against everyone else. Those comparisons are often so volatile that they can be flipped based on one common opponent result. Since UMD doesn't play many teams from out east, games like the ones they're going to play Friday and Saturday against Providence take on added importance.

The system works because it's simple math. It doesn't work for a number of other reasons that are usually difficult to articulate, and that's probably better left for a different day.

As the Bulldogs prepare, they have a largely healthy team. They also have a lot of competition for playing time, especially on defense. This is the last weekend of non-conference games until January, so expect to see a few different guys in the lineup this weekend.

Up front, the drive for secondary scoring continues. Providence is a tough defensive team, so expect them to try to clamp down and try to regulate the FCC line. While Justin Fontaine, Jack Connolly, and Mike Connolly all scored Friday at Lake Superior State, it could be argued the most significant thing they did happened on Saturday at Northern Michigan.

After Jack won the opening faceoff, the Bulldogs got the puck into the offensive zone almost immediately. For 39 seconds, the three cycled the puck and generated a couple decent chances. Then they drew a penalty on the Wildcats, which Dylan Olsen turned into the game's first goal with a booming slapper from the center blue line.

The FCC line didn't figure into the actual scoring, but they were a big reason for the goal happening to begin with. It set the tone for Saturday's 3-2 win.

"We said 'If we win the draw, get it up to the winger, try to get it deep, and pursue pressure,'" Fontaine said. He says he thinks it really did set the tone for a smart defensive game by UMD.

He's right.

Now, the Bulldogs have to carry over that mentality. They were nowhere near a 60-minute effort on Friday, and much closer to it on Saturday, save for a 90-second lapse that produced both NMU goals. It was a good first weekend. Something to build on.

It's time to do that building. The Bulldogs need a sweep this weekend. It could be potentially huge for Pairwise reasons down the road.

That sounds stupid, really, because there are so many more significant games UMD will play this season. But these games matter because the system says they do. It's not a perfect system, but it won't change before March. You either adapt to it, or it runs you over.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Look at Ohio State From an Ohio State Fan

As you may know, the No. 1 THE Ohio State Buckeyes are in Madison Saturday to battle Wisconsin.

You can read some of my thoughts on the game via The Buckeye Battle Cry. We decided to do a little cross-over this week, as I answered some of their questions about the Badgers, and they answered some of mine about the Buckeyes.

I hope you'll jump over there and read their posts on the game. In the meantime, here's the Q&A that we did on tOSU.

How is the offensive line performing?
That is an interesting question and something that Ohio State has been looking for an answer to for several years now.

Despite being the 20th ranked rushing offense in the country (217 yards per game, a lot of which has been Pryor), many fans are disappointed in the way the offensive line has been run blocking.

My personal feeling is that the breakdowns in the run game have been due to defenses stacking the box and taking their chances with Pryor's arm. Either way, there are question marks surrounding the run game, which starts up front.

On the flip side, the pass protection for Pryor has been great, which once again may go back to the run first schemes the defenses have been utilizing.

Either way, Wisconsin will present a big challenge for the offensive line. If they are not up to that challenge, it will be a long night for the Buckeyes.

Is Ohio State prone to a bruising running back or more of a slashing style of runner?
The Buckeye defense has stopped pretty much everything that has been thrown at it so far this year, so I am not sure if they are more vulnerable to one style of runner over another.

The line has tremendous size and athleticism to stop a bigger back, while the linebackers and safeties (particularly Jermale Hines, #7) have the speed to keep a quicker back from getting to the edge.

Obviously you have a big bruiser in John Clay and a slasher in James White, so I hope that Ohio State is equally good at stopping both.

Ohio State's defensive line and linebackers are very talented this year, but the line in particular lacks the depth of last year's squad. The trick to cracking the D might be a rotation of both backs to wear out the Buckeye starters and get to the more vulnerable back ups.

Does Terrelle Pryor still frustrate Buckeye fans with his bouts of inconsistency? Or has he cleaned up that area of his game at all?
Ohio State fans, like those of many college programs, have a unusual memory. When things are going well, there's a contingent that cannot see any flaw or issue that may exist. When things are going poorly, there's nothing that can be done to correct it. For example, in spite of the successes in wins and losses, there are still those who call for Tressel to step aside and pass the offensive playcalling to someone else. There are also those who, once Terrelle throws his first interception, will be screaming for him to be moved to wide receiver- it's actually become a joke among many Buckeye fans.

Thus far, we haven't seen many of the latter types of arguments lately; mostly because a) Ohio State is winning, b) Terrelle is having a very good year {among the nation's leaders} and is building on the exciting things we saw in the Rose Bowl and c) we're too busy freaking out about our offensive line's seeming inability to open holes the size of battleships in the opposing defensive front. Should he falter, though, I'm confident that those who have reservations will again see their beliefs justified.

What is the best way to keep Pryor in check?
I really am not sure. I thought that Miami would have the best success, given their history of defensive excellence and their speed in the secondary, but Terrelle was able to take over the game during the last quarter and a half in particular.

It seems to be a "pick your poison" type of thing. He's throwing well enough now that you can't just load the box and make him run, if you play heavy coverage it gives the offense running lanes, if you try to spy him (as Illinois and Penn State did last year) it had better be with someone who can make sense of his speed- being so big, it's really hard to gauge the appropriate angles to run him down.

So I really don't know... Get him so enamored by the great brats and beer at a tailgate that he forgets to go to the game? :)

Are you surprised by the relative weakness of the Big Ten?
You know, I don't see it. Wisconsin is having a good year, as is Mich1gAAn (thus far). Iowa's as strong as they were expected to be with only a loss in a hostile environment. Michigan State could run the table, and Illinois looks better than expected (their only losses were to teams that are currently undefeated). Penn State is struggling, but overall the conference looks pretty good.

I think the Big T1e1n is building on a solid bowl season, and will be all that much stronger when Nebraska joins next fall.

If the Buckeyes go 12-0, will you be pissed if they don't make the BCS title game (it could happen)?
Disappointed? Yes. Pissed? No. The BCS system isn't perfect, and an argument could obviously be made that Ohio State truly deserves to be in the title game if we finish the season at 12-0, but in another year we may be the beneficiaries of the system while another team gets left out. While it's possible that we could finish 12-0 and not make it into the title game, it seems unlikely. At this point we should just be looking at the next game on the schedule, focusing on winning one at a time, and at the end of the season we'll see how things fall out.

What is the best shot Wisconsin has to win this game?
Wisconsin's best shot to win this game is for Scott Tolzien to have a career day. While the Buckeyes haven't yet played a team with a solid power running game this season there is no reason to believe that sort of offense will find success against this defensive line. The Bucks have only given up 468 yards total on the ground through 6 games - 4th in the nation in total run defense. Last season Wisconsin ran 6 different backs to the tune of 131 yards on 33 carries for 3.97 yards per carry (taking out Tolzien's 11 for -13). Most of the success came from running Gilreath on end arounds as Clay gained only 59 yards on 20 carries. These kinds of numbers are simply not going to cut it - especially with OSU's coaching staff thinking that this defensive line is by far and away better than any they've had in the last 10 years - and suffered little attrition from last year's squad.

It's up to Tolzien to get the ball over the head of OSU's defensive strength. There's been a number of question marks in the secondary this season, especially with the injuries that have been sustained to our starting "Star" (hybrid nickle back) and backup corners. A sustained, consistent, competent passing attack could be the key.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Poll: WCHA's Last Unbeaten

Don't think we didn't notice.

After three games, Michigan Tech is 2-0-1, with wins over Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State, and a tie Tuesday night against Northern Michigan.

That got me thinking. There are ten teams in the WCHA that have yet to lose.

So, who do you think will be the proverbial last man standing?

Cast a vote.

We're obviously biased here, but you have to think UMD is a candidate, because they shouldn't lose a game until the end of the month at the earliest.

On the other hand, though, we really don't have a clue how good teams are at this point. We just know how good we think they're supposed to be. That's a big difference.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

NHL Fails at First 'Wheel of Justice' Spin

The first major rules infractions of the season took place Monday in separate games. The NHL's vaunted Wheel of Justice got its first test.

Naturally, it was a rather embarrassing failure.

Let's look at the videotape. First up, a Monday afternoon incident in New York involving Islander James Wisniewski and Ranger agitator Sean Avery. This might be considered NSFW in some circles.

Hard to argue that this isn't a smart thing for an NHL player to do. Of course, NHL players do dumb stuff all the time and they don't get suspended.

Keep that in mind. Here is a hit by Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson Monday night on Buffalo Sabre Jason Pominville.

With the heavy emphasis on headshots, this is an automatic suspension.

Both players -- Wisniewski and Hjalmarsson -- got two-game suspensions.


I get that not all crimes are equal. Just because they draw equal suspensions doesn't mean the league thinks they were even-up on the scale of sin.

Of course, that isn't how things look. How stupid does the NHL look to the Average Joe when they dole out idiotically equal suspensions in cases like this?

Oh, by the way, let's not forget that Sean Avery once got six games for a sex joke.

I guess that means that sex joke > phallic gesture = blatant headshot.


BlogPoll 2010: Week 7 Ballot

Here goes nothing. Was on the road for hockey but still found time to watch some football.

A few notes on what you see here.
  • I know many will question South Carolina being behind Alabama. The Gamecocks simply aren't a team that will beat the Tide on a neutral field, no matter what you saw Saturday.
  • Give Michigan State a lot of credit. They're a well-coached team that deserves the start they're off to. There will be skeptics, because the Spartans don't play Ohio State, but they are a good bet to go 12-0 and give the BCS another headache.
  • It's hard to figure the SEC out at this point. LSU has the unbeaten record, but does anyone really think they're good enough to win the national title? Hell, I'm not sold they can beat Alabama, though you never know when Les Miles is feeling the love from Lady Luck.
  • Michigan is a bowl team, but no way is their defense good enough for anything significant.